By Tina Min Tang
It was 6: 50 in the morning on August 27th. A school tram arrived on time to pick up Kangang, a 6 year-old boy, whose parents both work as migrant workers in Dongguan. This was his first day of school. Dongguan, located in southeastern China, is renowned as the “workshop of the world” and holds the greatest number of peasant workers in China. Currently there are 549, 000 unregistered students in the city, according to the Yangcheng Evening News.
The school Kangkang attends is called Zhuoen. Formerly a public school owned by the local government, it was later purchased by the Zhuoen Educational Group and transformed into a private kindergarten and primary school. The school has trams to transport students to and from their homes every day, three on-campus meals, and afternoon recess. “It is relatively a good one, comparing to other private schools in Dongguan,” said Kangkang’s father. He has been living and working here for 12 years, yet is not a registered for permanent residence in Dongguan.
The school fees are not cheap. It costs 5000 renminbi (RMB) for one semester: 2800 RMB for tuition fees and the rest for living expenses such as food, books, school uniforms, and so on. If Kangkang went to a public school, the fees would not be so high. Going to a public school, however, would send Kangkang back to his hometown and away from his parents. It was a big decision for his family. “Grandparents can only take care of his eating and clothing. They cannot help with his studies. It is easy for them to spoil the kid as well,” say his parents. They wanted the best for Kangkang, so they sent him to this private school.
“In fact many migrant laborers would like to send their kids to public schools. But the policy is too strict,” lamented Kangkang’s father. Since 2009 the Dongguan government has implemented a new point-based policy to provide more openings for students like Kangkang. It decides students’ qualifications according to their parents’ education, professional training, length of service in the city, length of social insurance, households, and taxes. One of the problems of the policy is that many local employers provide social insurance for the employees only after the newly modified labor law of 2008.
Although there has been an increase of 1544 openings in public elementary schools this year, there are only 14564 positions for migrant children. Districts such as Fenggang have about 400 public schools, but only permits 245 applications.
Last month some schools closed down in Beijing, depriving 14,000 migrant students of education. Children are the future of a country and migrant children should not be an exception, considering the immeasurable contributions their parents make to the Chinese economy. As Premier Wen Jiabao pointed out earlier this year, the issue requires two paths of action: intensively promoting education in rural parts of the country and providing equal opportunities in urban areas. “Kids will accept excellent education no matter if they are at home or in the city,” said Premier Wen this February to Xinhua News.